Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 2, 2013

None of Garrett County’s problems is surprising

Rural electrification shortened World War II by years. Rural electrification made it possible for America to build thousands of small factories to pack ammunition, to can rations, to sew uniforms, and more.

Rural factories employed many hundreds of thousands producing supplies that shortened the war — saving lives, plus expanding rural economies.

In today’s global war for jobs, public-private partnerships bring fiber backbones to remote wireless ports that have created jobs in rural America since the 1990s.

Yet, by 2003 Garrett County officials had refused to consider partnerships; worse, officials refused to guarantee they would not partner to expand broadband. Officials created uncertainty instead of potential for growth.

Rather than embrace high-return, low-maintenance countywide job-and-tax-generating infrastructure directly benefiting most county households and businesses, county officials focused on a roadside attraction back a private road in a congested area.

Instead of helping create a wide array of decent jobs, officials created a single-interest tourist trap planned to cost around $12 million and promised to support itself. Then ASCI failed, compounding damage to the community.

Current cash costs of ASCI are above $20 million and rising, while opportunity costs to Garrett County are closer to $50 million and rising.

Ongoing failure of Garrett County planning and administration speeds up flight of young families from Garrett County; some families perhaps wrap their glassware in press releases trumpeting self-proclaimed triumphs by county leaders.

In the ASCI era, Garrett County public schools lost about one-in-five students. $20 million invested in broadband during the ASCI era would have built a broadband footprint sufficient to attract tech-dependent jobs that attract ambitious young families that build middle class homes that pay taxes supporting education. Hard measures determine success, not self-aggrandizing bureaucrats with friends in media.

In 2011, the current Garrett County commissioners refused to hire a well-proven consultancy to analyze GC schools for options to protect students and community schools.

Two years later the quality of life of more students and more communities depends upon manna from Annapolis, because once again top administrators failed.

It was always clear the wealth formula cut both ways; the key questions are why Garrett County administrators increased local spending as 20 percent of students fled the system, and why they blame the state for local failures in basic math and planning? Hubris? Mental defect? Where is the line? None of today’s problems is a surprise. Not. one.

Denials of local culpability by officials and administrators as well as their collective whining and assailing taxpayers asking government to do more with less is the bawling of infantile hacks.

The need for better results is obvious, but better results require accountability, courage and character. Where is that? We have “sky is falling” handwringing by contemptible hacks bleating denials of personal and local culpability out their backsides.

A fair question is whether enough taxpayers support game-changers willing and able to produce better results, or if most prefer the way we are — government by amiable bumblers haplessly reporting what the devil did or made them do, and why that has to be good enough for government work.

W.L. “Bill” Welch

Oakland

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